President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has admitted the fee-free education policy for the country’s public second-cycle institutions has been beset by some challenges in its implementation, but he says they are teething troubles his government is poised to surmount.
Speaking Wednesday at a durbar of traditional rulers in Bolgatanga as part of his two-day working visit to the Upper East region, the President said those who slammed the promises he made before his election into office could only accept the reality that the free education assurance he gave was not a “gimmick”.
“What you say on your way to power, that is what you must do when you are in power,” he said as a crowd of party supporters, who stood with him in opposition when his detractors ‘nailed’ him, hailed him.
Continuing amid applause at the Ramsey Sports Stadium, the grounds for the durbar, he said, “There were many who mocked at the various commitments that I made to the Ghanaian people. They said they were deception; I was not truthful; I couldn’t do them; and I was thereby cheating the Ghanaian people. Free SHS, they said, could not take place within the next 20 years. And that I was deceiving the people of Ghana when I said it was possible. It was an ‘election gimmick’. And after the election, if I won I would abandon it. Well, the ‘election gimmick’ is here. It is now a reality in our country.”
The free education, which his predecessor, John Dramani Mahama, in 2012 said should be “progressively free” President Akufo-Addo said Wednesday had come to stay— and that it could only progressively get better.
“The expression that I hold most dear is the expression the Chinese people have. They say that a journey of five thousand miles begins with the first step. If you don’t begin, you will never know what you need to do to improve. Free SHS has begun; Free SHS is going to stay; Free SHS is going to continue.
“And in the process, the challenges of infrastructure and facilities, we will deal with those challenges. Next year’s performance will be better than this year and the year after will be better and it will get better and better and better,” he emphasised, attracting an ovation from a section of the audience.
Free SHS is to avoid being left behind- Prez. Akufo-Addo
The idea behind the free education policy, according to the President, is to ensure that Ghana is not left behind among its peers.
“We had to begin, we had to begin because the most important thing we can do for ourselves in our generation is to see that all our young people are educated so that they can face the 21st century with confidence.
“This is the century of knowledge, ICT, digital revolution, and if our children are not exposed to it quickly, once again we are going to be left behind. That is the whole thinking behind the free SHS— to give ourselves and our population the opportunity and the capability of meeting the challenges of the future of this century,” he explained.
413 schools on School Feeding Programme in Upper East
The Minister for Children, Gender and Social Protection, Otiko Afisah Djaba, told the crowd the Akufo-Addo-led Government had awarded the Upper East region an increase in the number of schools on the Ghana School Feeding Programme.
There are 413 schools on the region’s school-feeding list, pending the latest addition, according to the minister.
She lamented the high incidence of early marriage in northern Ghana and urged parents to help deal with the canker by enrolling their girls in schools and retaining them all through the academic ladder.
“We don’t need to have poverty. We will ensure that we take advantage of the Free Senior High School Education programme. The prevalence of child marriage is highest in the Northern region— 39.6%. It’s followed by the Upper West. And in the Upper East, the prevalence is over 36%. I want to beg you, my fathers; take advantage of the Free SHS so that you can end child marriage now. When the girl is in school, that means her son and her daughter will also be in school,” Madam Otiko Djaba pleaded.